The Price of Unforgiveness

   “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.”

Matthew 18:32

This is one of my favorite parables. Jesus is such an awesome teacher! Can you even imagine sitting at His feet, like Mary? We are so self-absorbed in our little world that heaven is beyond our thoughts. It makes me think of the last verse of “Rock of Ages” (I LOVE to sing  Faye Lopez’s arrangement of this hymn with my sweetheart!).

While I draw this fleeting breath,
when my eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.

Sorry, that was a bit of a rabbit trail! In Matthew 18, Jesus tells this parable to his disciples right after Peter has asked Jesus how many times he must forgive his brother. Peter’s opinion: seven; Jesus’ answer: 490!  

Jesus then compares the kingdom of heaven to a king settling his accounts with his servants. He starts with a servant who owes him 10,000 talents. We’re tempted to skip over that little fact, but in doing so, we miss the whole point of the parable. In our world of trillions, what’s a few thousand? But, if we calculate the sum in today’s economy, 10,000 talents could equal around $3.48 billion—an amount you could never repay—especially if you are a servant making minimum wage. After the servant pleads for mercy, the master “was moved with compassion” and forgave the entire debt!” Amazing!

Part Two: It is now the servant’s turn to forgive. His servant owes him 100 denarii–$5,800. That’s a sizable debt but nothing compared to his own debt to the master, and, although the fellow servant pleads and begs, he will not forgive the debt.

Enter: Fellow servants. When the other servants see what happened, they go to their master and relay the situation to him. Needless to say, the master is angry and delivers the unforgiving servant to the “torturers until he should pay all that was due to him” (Matt. 19:34). He will be paying for that debt—an impossible debt to pay—for all eternity.

So, the story is about forgiveness—ours and others. Jesus freely forgave our eternal debt of sin—an insurmountable amount that we could never pay! And we turn around and refuse to forgive our “fellow servant” when he has wronged us? Wow! Jesus really makes it clear, doesn’t He?

But what I noticed this morning was even more shocking and heart-rending. Jesus calls this unforgiving servant a “wicked servant.” Look at all we learn about this “servant” or follower of Jesus:

  • He falls down before his Master (v. 26)
  • He takes his fellow servant “by the throat” (v.28)
  • He’s calloused against his fellow servant “and he would not [forgive him] but went and threw him into prison.” (v. 30)
  • When confronted by his master, he’s speechless. (v. 32-34) There is never an excuse or rebuttal when our Master says, “Guilty.”

Is there someone you need to forgive? If you are a born-again believer, you do not have the deadly luxury of holding a grudge. To have Jesus look at you and call you wicked (distressing, dreadful, awful, atrocious, appalling, terrible) would be heart-breaking! You must forgive! Is there anything worth than losing the joy of hearing, “Well done, you good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matt. 25:21)? Remember Ephesians 4:32—

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.

Jesus gives us the strength to forgive when the debt seems insurmountable, but remember…

remember your debt to Your Savior.


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